Category Archives: Animals

Quiet and relaxed?

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It was Saturday, the first of two warm and sunny days we were promised in the forecast and the first of two days to relax in. I woke up early and was soon having a shower and getting dressed to go downstairs for breakfast. I finished breakfast before nine o’clock and sat at my computer for half and hour as well as collating some information for my tax-return. A little bit at a time is the method I adopt when preparing my tax-return, it is easier that way for me because I don’t like sitting down for long periods as I probably would do if I did it all at once. In any case it only takes a few hours to get it prepared. I made myself a cup of coffee and went outside to sit on the bench in front of the patio…this one…

It faces east so gets full sunshine for a few hours each day. I could have sat on the patio but the artificial turf was wet with dew, as was the lawn too. Both dry pretty quickly once the sun gets high in the sky. Once I’d finished the coffee I became restless and couldn’t remain seated for long after. I took a stroll around the Mound (over on the right in the picture above). A single shoot caught my eye, it was another bluebell. Thinking it was near to the surface I tried to pull it out but no, it went deeper. Off I went for the kneeling stool and hand fork and I began to dig it out. Did I say single shoot? Never true most of the time with bluebells, there were several of them. I must have covered every cubic centimetre of the Mound by now but still they appear. Anyway that took a half-hour and I looked for something else to do. During my gardening renovations I have removed lots of small stones and some not so small, some natural stone and some man-made, bricks and the like. I had three large containers filled with them. This picture taken a few weeks earlier shows two of them nearly full.

I decided I would empty them out and separate the natural stone from the rubble. Some of the natural stone I placed around the base of the yucca plant shown in this picture at centre against the wall. It is immediately to the left of the buttress in case you can’t see it.

Now it was lunch time so I returned indoors. After lunch I returned to the patio and laid down on the now dry turf for an hour. I couldn’t stay there any longer but arose and went for a long walk in the sunshine. On my return home I spoke with my next door neighbour’s son for a time. They have a collie dog, a well-behaved animal that seldom barks, not like the two small dogs in a house nearby that sometimes bark incessantly for ages before someone finally stops them as happened when I went for a lie down on the patio earlier. My other next door neighbour also has a dog, a young setter that also seldom barks, or so I thought. I went into the house and made myself another coffee and sat out again on the patio. The setter started barking and did so for at least twenty minutes. I gave up and went indoors, actually to watch The Grand National annual steeplechase (horse race) on television. I have watched that race every year for as long as I can remember, well over sixty years. I returned outdoors to water the garden plants before finally going back inside for my evening meal. Peaceful, quiet and relaxing day? Well for most of the time.

Shirley Anne

Surveying the land

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English: did you know that squirrels like beer...

Did you know that squirrels like beer? I did not know that. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usually a term used to describe (in the dictionary – as a noun) ‘an act or instance of surveying or of taking a comprehensive view of something’. I am applying it in reference to my amble around my garden: amble: a verb – ‘to go at a slow, easy pace; stroll; saunter’, something I do quite often in the gardens throughout the year. I’ve grown to love and appreciate my gardens in the last few years whilst reflecting upon all the work I have done to get them to where they are now. My little surveys reveal the things I need to do to keep on top of things. Currently my thoughts are centred around spotting bluebells which have escaped my notice especially in the areas in which I have been working to remove them but also in other places they might appear. It was late on Saturday morning when I took a stroll along the path by the greenhouses and the first thing I noticed was a bluebell growing in the patch in front of the small greenhouse. I fetched the small garden fork and dug it out. Then I saw another and some more in the same general area. I have been expecting more to show as the weather gets warmer and I’ve not been disappointed! Having dug about thirty and removed them I thought that would be the end of it but no, there were some growing in the small plot nearby too. I removed them. I checked over the whole flowerbeds by the greenhouses to make sure I had removed all that had shown themselves. I spent a little time digging out a few more bluebells in the unfinished part of the corner plot where I have been working recently. I went indoors to prepare a meal. It was around three o’clock when I decided to take another amble around the garden and my keen eyes spotted a couple of bluebells in the flowerbed by the patio. I didn’t take any immediate action but noted where they were for the next time I would be working in the garden. I hadn’t much intention to work in the garden on the day because I wanted a rest from it and the weather forecast had been for rain anyway, though it didn’t rain until much later in the day. I spent a little time filling the seed dispenser for the birds as E seems to have forgotten to do it. On Friday morning I saw the strangest thing when looking out of the window into the rear garden. I saw ‘our’ little grey squirrel running along the top of the garden wall holding a slice of bread in its mouth! I never knew squirrels liked bread (and beer apparently) but I guess they will eat anything if hungry. We had been putting out nuts for them but hadn’t seen much of the squirrels lately due to the cold weather. Anyway the squirrel was being pursued by a jay who wanted a piece of the action but the squirrel was having none of it and kept out of the bird’s way. Funny what you see in the garden if you take the time to look.

Shirley Anne  

Rivalry, competition and rest

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I finally got up early on Wednesday after a few days of getting up so late I’d missed breakfast. It was a classical ‘cold and frosty morning’ with some thin fog hanging about but the day turned out sunny throughout. It was cold though and barely above zero degrees (Celsius) and in fact it never rose above three. I watched the blackbirds foraging for food around the spot I had left some grounded up nuts and monkey nuts (in their shells) for both birds and squirrels. At least my plant pots still had their loose bark on top intact after I had placed some sticks into them to prevent the birds from landing upon them. They had been tossing the bark all over the place beforehand. Still, they had shifted some leaves in the borders and on to the path in their rummaging for insects. The nuts I had left for the squirrels had all disappeared so I grabbed a handful and went into the garden and put them in the same spot. There was no sign of a squirrel during the time I watched from indoors but one then two magpies came down and started to sample the nuts. They had to break the shells first but that seemed to come naturally to them. I decided to return to the garden with a handful of loose seeds and spread them around whilst chasing off the magpies with their bounty. There were still enough nuts left for the squirrels should they put in an appearance. I returned again indoors and waited to see what would happen. It took some time but finally the blackbirds returned and ate their fill of seeds whilst a squirrel, probably the same one I have seen a few times recently, appeared and began eating the nuts before burying a few here and there in the border. The magpies didn’t return but a few jays or jackdaws came down to eat the seeds. They however left the nuts alone. I supposed they didn’t know there were nuts inside the shells or they were too lazy to try to break them open. The competition and rivalry can be intense when the weather is cold and the food is scarce. That’s why we like to put food out for them when the weather is cold. We haven’t used the bird table recently because of the high winds we’ve had. I want to make a slight alteration to the table in order to keep the larger birds from using it. They will be able to feed on the ground. Later in the day I watched the antics of the squirrel for quite some time as it wandered around.

Nuts (film)

Nuts (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just after breakfast I received a call from a regular customer asking if I could investigate a faulty floodlight. She wasn’t sure if I was back at work after the holiday but I told her I was taking a three-week break. nevertheless I agreed to look at the problem on Friday to fall in-line with her schedule. So much for a three-week break, it’s nuts I tell you, nuts! Later I had just finished lunch when our next-door neighbour rang asking if I could repair a faulty hinge on her chest freezer. I was there five minutes later with my toolbox. A hinge pin had simply worked its way out so it was an easy thing to put it back. When I returned home I made myself a coffee and what do you know, the squirrel was back again and running about all over the place. By now it was getting slightly foggy again as the sun sank behind the houses. It had turned colder too.

Shirley Anne

The little ones

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Another lie-in on Tuesday saw me putting my feet on the floor at 10 o’clock and missing breakfast once again. That didn’t matter, what was more important was I had a good night’s sleep even though I didn’t actually rest easy until 5 o’clock! It’s all to do with a change in routine, not having to get up for work and not getting to bed at the right time take their toll. I have to make the effort to settle things down before I am available for work in a couple of week’s time. When I retire none of this will matter but will I like it? Probably not but I will wait until I have crossed that bridge. So I was late getting downstairs and a banana and fruit drink would have to do until lunch a couple of hours later.Red Squirrel Gazing out of the kitchen window a grey squirrel caught my eye and I spent a little time watching what it did. It was scampering about in the border and on to the lawn until after a few minutes it went over to have a drink from the bucket beneath the greenhouse which collects rain water. It comes more useful in the warm months of the year when there is little or no rain. All we do is take out the leaves that have fallen into it. The squirrel then ran up the holly tree and ended up in the branches of the naked sycamore behind it. Just then two magpies perched themselves in the tree but one flew off immediately the squirrel appeared. The other one played cat-and-mouse with the squirrel who kept chasing it off the branches. The squirrel got its way and the magpie flew off, probably for a bit of peace. While all this was going on there were two male blackbirds making a mess on the path by the lamp-post at the other end of the garden. They were doing what many birds do when searching for food, shifting fallen leaves to see what is hiding beneath them. They seemed to be having some success at my expense for it would be me sweeping up the scattered leaves later. They do the same with the bark we have in a couple of plant pots, in fact later in the day I had to put the removed bark back into the pots and take some preventative measures against it happening again. It is usually the little ones which make the most mess. I inserted some plastic sticks in the pots to deter the birds from landing on them until the flowers have grown tall enough for them to be removed. The pots contain tulip and daffodil bulbs some of which have already started to emerge. I think there are a few snowdrops in them too. When the squirrel had moved away I went outside and placed some more nuts for it to gather on its return. They were gone by the end of the day. Before I returned indoors I attached the new flag and raised it to the top of the pole but it hung there quite limply as there was hardly any wind at all. Finally I went indoors and prepared another pan of chicken and vegetable stew enough for two meals. After lunch, an hour later, I decided to go for a walk. The day was far colder than the previous day but there was hardly and wind. I was surprised how many people were out doing the same despite the cold. E had been out all afternoon and didn’t return home until early evening. Apart from my walk I stayed at home all day.

Shirley Anne

From nothing at all to…..

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…….plenty. That’s the way it goes in my profession. I received a late call on Sunday evening requesting my services on Monday morning. It was a small job but still appreciated and worth doing. I apply a minimum charge for any work but if the work is local and very small I might charge less. I did the work and was paid my minimum fee and was quite happy about that. I had no other work at all, even for the rest of the week but that is quite normal for I often get plenty of work later during the week. I got another call at about 10.45 asking if I could render some help with a loss of power in someone’s kitchen twelve miles away. I was also informed that some of the lights were not working. I drove across to investigate and was made most welcome by the middle-aged guy who stood by his garden gate awaiting my arrival. I set about tracing the fault on the power circuit which took some time but I eventually located the general area of the fault which seemed to be in the annex to the kitchen hidden behind the ceiling and false walling. It would take too long to search and repair that part of the installation and it would probably be easier to simply rewire it. We decided the best thing to do would be to disconnect the annex so that the supply could be re-instated in the kitchen but first I had to locate the cables supplying that section and eventually found them under the floor in the room above the kitchen. There was evidence of the presence of mice or a rat as some of the wiring had been gnawed almost through but those cables fed other circuits in the house. I repaired them before locating the cables supplying the annex which I duly cut and by-passed with a junction connector box. If the annex is to be rewired in the future the wiring will need to be reconnected at that point. I informed the guy that I wouldn’t be taking on that work as I feel it would be too much for me to do without some assistance. Unfortunately in the process to disconnecting the faulty wiring the gas boiler was also disconnected so I re-supplied it from one of the kitchen power sockets. However the boiler seemed to be faulty too! The guy arranged for a gas fitter to call and repair it. Finally I had finished reinstating power but had to change a fault lighting unit before I left. The original fitting couldn’t retain a lamp as it had been damaged by excessive heat over the years. What will happen regarding the annex wiring I have no idea but at the very least something must be done to eliminate the presence of rats  which might gnaw through more of the wiring. The guy wasn’t alone in the house, he had a Philippino  wife and two very young children by her and he also had his twenty-one year old son from his former wife living with them temporarily. Unfortunately his son had brought a young Pit Bull terrier with him that whined throughout the time I was there and the son wouldn’t take care of that. The guy tried to tell me that he was a little tired of his son’s attitude and only suffered him because he was his son. His son was out of work too but seemed to lack motivation to do much about it though he did write a personal CV on the computer and sent off a copy to apply for a post. As far as I am aware he didn’t have much in the way of qualifications according to what he had told me. I think the young man has his priorities all wrong. Anyway I had been there for over three hours and had missed my lunch yet again. I was back home around three-thirty but left off preparing anything until a little later. I sat out on the patio to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon in the sun. It wasn’t long before I received more work for the next day. I seem to be a work magnet these days!

Shirley Anne

Barking mad

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As The Crow Flies (The Advisory Circle album)

As The Crow Flies (The Advisory Circle album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had arranged to do a very small job on Friday morning for a man living in an apartment a mere two hundred metres as the crow flies, from my house but slightly further by road. He had called the evening before explaining that he had purchased a replacement fan unit for an electric heater in his lounge and couldn’t fit it himself. I explained that I no longer undertake work of that nature as a rule, though fires are never usually problematical to repair. I agreed to do it for him, it would be easy money without any hassle. I arrived right on time and had the unit replaced in about ten minutes. He told me that the old fan unit made a noise even when it wasn’t switched on, though I couldn’t hear it. He had paid £85 for the replacement which I hasten to say did not make a noise when it was switched off. I had an idea he had imagined the fault. When I had done the job he told me that the lighting wall switches did not switch off the lights he wanted them to. It was a three-gang switch (three switches on the same plate) and the first two switches were the ones he wanted altering. A simple task which involved swapping two wires and I had it done in a minute. On returning home I asked my son, who had stopped overnight and was about to leave, if he could drop me in the Village so I could visit the bank and the chemist shop (drug store). I walked back home. It had been a dry, humid but dull morning and the forecast was for rain in the afternoon so I decided to mow the lawn. It was just about due for another cut and it was just as well that I did it because we had torrential downpours after lunch. I thought that would be the end of my working week but I received a call later in the afternoon from an elderly lady who was trying to explain that she had lost all power to her power outlets. She apologised for her garbled speech explaining that she had a stroke some years ago which had left her that way. ‘No need to apologise’ I said and I drove there immediately. She had two small dogs that barked incessantly whilst I was there and the smaller of them was very aggressive too. It was all she could do to keep them away from me whilst I was trying to figure out the problem with the power. Why oh why don’t people put their animals in isolation in a room that visitors won’t be going in? Instead of doing that she struggled to keep them quiet and out-of-the-way. In situations like this I have to be very diplomatic and patient but it really drives me mad that people don’t think there is a problem. It is difficult enough trying to work without having to contend with the bad behaviour of pets, especially barking dogs. I asked if there were any power outlets outside and was told there was one out there. When I went outside I noticed a cable clipped to the wall at low-level and it appeared damaged at one point. One of the dogs had chewed it. The dog evidently had been protected by the RCD unit on the power distribution board. I saw that the wires were not severed and in fact only the live conductor was showing bare at one small point. The cable had gotten wet in the downpour and had shorted between the live conductor and the bare earth wire. The earthing conductor within a cable is not insulated. I effected a repair and lifted the cable higher up the wall and clipped it, fitting a cover over that part which had to remain at low-level. I was paid a little extra by the lady who was grateful that I had responded so quickly.

Shirley Anne

Woof-woof

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English: Female Border collie puppy, about 9 w...

Female Border collie puppy, about 9 weeks old (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now I like dogs. They are my favourite in the animal kingdom. I have owned a few of them over the years. However I don’t like them all. Small dogs I tend to dislike the most for it seems they have an attitude problem, probably because of their size. It is fair to say they aren’t all like that but even so I prefer the larger breeds. I get to see many dogs in my travels as an electrician so I am quite used to their behaviour. Some of them are quite aggressive, some are over-friendly to the point of being a nuisance, getting in the way whilst I am trying to work. I put that down to their owners though who should know better than to leave their animals roaming about when people are working in their homes. Speaking of this in particular, I was working in a house a few years ago and had several floorboards up in the hallway and lounge. The lady of the house owned a poodle which although was only six months old was still quite large but being a puppy and an excitable one too, it was all over the place. It was a wonder it didn’t end up down one of the holes in the floor. After a few minutes I had to insist that she take the dog away to another room for I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing. To my surprise the woman seemed a little offended and explained that it was only a puppy. Well that was alright for the puppy but not for anyone working there. She did remove the dog and I was able to get on with the work. I can understand why postmen have problems but when you have to enter the premises as well it can be more problematical.

jack russel terrier

Jack Russel terrier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing I don’t like about some dogs is their lack of obedience. Again this is down to their owner not having trained them properly or even at all. Dogs that do not stop barking are another pet (forgive the pun) hate of mine but this too is down to a lack of training or the dog has been left alone too long or is even suffering in some way. There are a few people near to where I live who own dogs, my next door neighbour is one. Her dog is a Border Collie but it is well-behaved and seldom barks for no reason. Another neighbour, whose rear garden adjoins ours, has two small dogs, one of them is a Jack Russel terrier who barks at anything and everything when let out into the garden. It is quite frankly a pest. Next door to them is another dog owner. Their dog is a larger breed but I am not sure of its pedigree. It also barks too much at times, in fact this particular dog was barking continuously for about a half-hour on Sunday afternoon whilst I was relaxing out on the patio. I have to say I was very annoyed at the owner for not doing something about it though they may not have been there. I remember one day a few years back when there was a dog barking all day long. That dog was remote from our house but could still be heard. It only happened once so I assume the owner had been inundated with so many complaints that they dared not let it happen again. It is a breach of the peace to allow a dog to bark continuously and it cannot benefit the dog very much either. Yes I love dogs, most of the time!

Shirley Anne

I didna mean ta

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Mousie!

Mousie! (Photo credit: epicnom)

Wee, sleekit, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave ‘S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ wast,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Robbie Burns

Robbie Burns wrote this poem after disturbing a mouse’s nest with his plough.

Well I didn’t mean to disturb the wee ones but as I was working away and digging out the mound on Wednesday morning two little mice scurried out from beneath the very large slab of stone I was lifting. I started working in the garden before 8 o’clock in the morning but not digging out the mound. I had decided to rake over the area we call the vegetable patch between the garage and the patio. It is quite a large area and there was a mound of soil which we had put there last year whilst doing other work but never got around to spreading it out. It took me more than half an hour to spread the mound over the patch of ground using a rake. I then began digging out the other mound. I have reached that part of the said mound which seems to contain most of the builders rubble. I must have removed another thirty bricks as well as a few pieces of concrete and natural stone in the space of an hour. I also filled another two large bags with smaller pieces of rubble. The two little mice ran toward the brick walls where they meet and into the crack that has developed there. I think they must have dropped down into the neighbour’s garden. Shortly afterwards I stopped working in the garden for the day and packed away the tools.

Shirley Anne

Home alone 2 (LOL)

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Saturday was almost a repeat of Friday but E didn’t leave the house until almost one o’clock this time. She was meeting her friends again for their monthly get-together at a pub/restaurant in a nearby town. They always meet on the third Saturday unless that falls on a special holiday, like Christmas for instance. She usually spends about three or four hours away but this time she didn’t return home until after seven as she had other things to attend to beforehand. I wanted to do some work on my project in the garden but felt obliged to stay indoors until my son came to collect the cat we had looked after overnight. He didn’t arrive until after three o’clock. I received an update about the cat. It appears that she hadn’t been looked after by its previous owner who apparently was hardly ever at home and who left others to feed the animal. My son had arranged for a new owner to take charge but she evidently couldn’t take the cat until Saturday afternoon. It seems she had been to Spain and was coming back home. I believe the cat will now be well looked after by this young woman. I felt sorry for the poor mite, now thirteen years old and not properly settled yet. Her picture is below.Cat 3 Anyway my son took her away and I took the opportunity to do a little work. By now it was almost four o’clock but it was now sunny and dry. I set about demolishing part of the wall I talked about in yesterday’s post ready to start constructing the steps that will lead up to the vegetable patch behind the garage. More bricks came away than had been planned but they can easily be put back later. Next I started to dig out the ground behind the wall and I must have shifted a half-ton! Digging and moving soil really takes it out of you, I know, I’ve done it many times and recently too! After laying down some hard-core material ready for the concrete I tidied up the area and returned indoors. I had only been outside for about two hours but I got all that I wanted to do done. I had other things to do indoors, washing some clothes, hanging other laundry that had been washed, cleaning around the kitchen after the cat, she had been almost everywhere, on the worktops and table! I prepared our evening meal expecting E to be home now that it was after seven but she didn’t arrive home until around eight. I dined alone not knowing when she’d arrive. No sooner had I finished eating when she finally arrived. After E had eaten I prepared a Chilli-con Carne for the following day. It takes far better when it is allowed to stand for a few hours. I took my day of rest on Sunday and did no work that day.

Shirley Anne

Home alone and bored?

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cat

Cat

On occasion I am left at home alone. Whenever E has a meeting or goes out for the day with her competition partaking friends I sometimes find myself with only myself for company. That of course isn’t a problem as usually I have things to do and sometimes I am out at work part of the time anyway but when it is raining and I haven’t work either away from home or at home I find I am struggling for something to do and end up bored! This is what happened on Friday. E left the house around seven in the morning and I had a job to do away from home at nine. I was occupied for an hour or so before I left the house but I returned back from the job a mere half an hour or so later. The job was about a half-mile away, it was small and I am a fast worker! I wanted to continue laying concrete but decided against it because of the weather. It rained on and off throughout the day and would have made the task difficult and I’d have gotten soaked for my effort. As it happened I decided instead to demolish part of the wall I needed to do before I could re-route the overflow pipe from the water-butt into the drain as I explained in my previous post. I simply stopped working when it rained and resumed when it stopped and I managed to do what I needed to. Unfortunately the weather got worse during the afternoon and working outside was impossible. I abandoned the idea of doing any further work outside for the day. At times like this I would normally go for a walk or go to the pub for a couple of hours but I knew I would soon get bored doing that as there aren’t many people to chat with in the afternoons. Early in the afternoon and after lunch I set about making some scones. The remainder of the day was spent on the computers, playing guitar and later entertaining a temporary house resident in the evening. On Thursday evening our youngest son had telephoned and asked if we could help a friend of his by looking after his aged cat for a night. He brought the cat to our house on Friday evening. It is some time since we last had an animal at home. I like animals, especially dogs but although I like cats too I would rather they belonged to somebody else! Cats are destructive animals and I wouldn’t have one as a pet for that reason. I have been in many houses where there have been cats in residence and see scratched wallpaper and furniture everywhere. Not only that but cats tend to jump up onto things, beds, tables, worktops in the kitchen and most anywhere they please. No thank you, I don’t want one as a pet. Was I bored? Not really but I did find it a struggle at times finding something to do.

Shirley Anne

Our regulars and those we don’t see often

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Great Tit in a back garden near Tetbury, Glouc...

Great Tit in a back garden near Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

E and I took a little time out from the work in the garden and we were in the greenhouse potting about. E drew my attention to a little Robin struggling to carry off an enormous worm it had discovered on the wet grass where E had hosed a dew minutes earlier. After a couple of attempts the bird gave up and flew off only to return to sit in the apple tree searching for small insects. We see this little Robin nearly every day and he (or it might be a she) is soon on the ground behind us if we have been digging in the soil as we did a few days ago removing stones and weeds in the corner of the garden. That work has yet to be finished. Other regular visitors are the Great Tits, Wrens, Blackbirds and a couple of Sparrows which have been seemingly rare these days. Larger birds come and go like the Jays, Wood Pigeons and Magpies and there will always be the Gulls, especially if we put out large pieces of bread. They seem to know just where there are easy pickings. We hear and have seen the local Woodpecker and Barn Owls too. Sometimes we find a dead bird on the lawn, taken by one of the neighbourhood cats but never eaten, just ripped apart probably whilst they were foraging for food early in the morning. The sneaky cat must be hiding in the bushes waiting for some unsuspecting bird to hop into view. At this time of year if we go into the garden at dusk we can often see bats flying about after moths or other insects that might still be airborne. We don’t get other animals or birds in the rear garden because of the height of the walls but it is possible that a fox might make the attempt. We have seen foxes in our next-door neighbour’s garden but access there is easier than ours is. In one way that is to our benefit for security reasons but it does restrict any desirable visitors we might like to have.

Shirley Anne

Good place to live?

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Female black widow spider guarding an egg case...

Female black widow spider guarding an egg case – Species Latrodectus mactans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People in this country are good at moaning about the weather. I can guarantee that most folk that I meet and talk with in my day will have something to say about the weather. If it is raining they will call the weather ‘lousy’ or ‘rotten’ and many lately I suppose would be justified seeing as they’ve been suffering because of the floods in parts of the country. If it is cold, windy or whatever, it will be mentioned. When the weather is warm and sunny then everyone is happy but still the comments come. Many people love this country and wouldn’t give ‘tuppence’ to live somewhere else but many long to leave these shores for warmer climes. When you think about it this country is a great place to live and if you exclude the potential threats through criminal activity it is a very safe place to live. Other countries have the same social problems as we do, there are criminals all over the world wanting to live off the back of society without making any useful contributions. A thief is a thief no matter where you live. Living in a foreign land can be fraught with danger, depending upon where that country is but it isn’t solely from the human population. Deadly insects and dangerous animals are a serious threat to the unwary in far-off places. Away from the big cities wild animals such as bears, wolves, crocodiles, snakes and spiders are ready to do you harm if you are not careful. The larger animals may be easier to avoid but the smaller ones are not. Imagine having to check for the presence of a tarantula or black widow spider each time you open a box or a cupboard or move some item of furniture in your own house! People get bitten by snakes when they forget basic principles of safety. Going to sleep in a tropical country can leave you totally vulnerable to mosquito bites unless precautions are taken. One thing you can say about this country is that we are not, generally speaking, in danger from its wildlife. Wolves and bears no longer roam the countryside and we do not have any insect species which pose a threat in the normal course of events. The insects which live here are more of a nuisance than a threat although they can be responsible for spreading disease if we give them the opportunity. I would think that it is only the insects we should be wary of and that goes for anywhere in the world except in the coldest places. I am not forgetting plant life  and the various poisonous plants we have in this country but they pose less of a threat unless we eat them or manhandle one or two of them such as foxgloves, laburnum flowers, certain fungi and wild berries and others. If we really think about it we are open to all kinds of threats from nature and there is no real place we can go to avoid it but some places are more dangerous than others. No, there is a lot to be said for living in this country and I for one think it is a good place to live, don’t you?

Shirley Anne

Going batty

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Last Monday saw the installation of my roller-shutter door to the new garage and after we had cleared out the accumulated rubbish E finally got to put her car in there. Her car had broken down last week and had to be taken to a repair depot if you remember but it wasn’t until Tuesday that she was able to collect it. I had taken my bicycle to the place where I had bought it about six weeks ago as it was due for a free service and check-up. Under normal circumstances I might have ridden it there but E wanted to see if they had finished checking her car as they hadn’t checked it by Monday evening and it was now approaching the afternoon on Tuesday but they hadn’t phoned her to let her know what was happening. I had been working during the morning so was unable to take my bike for its service earlier. As it happened I was back home before noon so took the bike then. E came with me and I was told I would have to leave the bike there because they were short-staffed and it couldn’t be seen to immediately. We returned home via the repair depot and E saw that her car had been moved which meant they had checked it out so I waited there whilst she went inside to collect it. They told her that it needed a replacement part costing £800 but that the fault may or may not manifest itself again for weeks, months or even a year. In other words they were not sure! E laughed and said to me that her car wasn’t even worth £800. It is ten years old though and really wants replacing I suppose. Anyway she drove it home and I followed immediately behind all the way. It was when we returned home that she put her car in the garage for the first time. When she first bought it she used to park it in the old garage alongside my van but over the years that changed and she just left it on the driveway in front of the house. Later in the afternoon she accompanied me when I went to collect my bike. On Monday evening after dark, our youngest son paid a visit and E showed him the new garage door. When they were inside they switched on the light and in the process disturbed a bat which flew about and disappeared out of their sight. It wasn’t the same bat as pictured below. I am not sure of the name for the one they had discovered but it is one of the smaller and more common species here in the UK.When she came indoors to tell me about it I wasn’t surprised for the garage has been left open to the elements for so long and we have always known there were bats about in the evenings as we have seen them regularly. Now an open garage to a bat is just the same to it as a cave so it is hardly surprising that we have one or two using it as their home. I don’t mind that in the least, they are harmless but we may have to seek them out after I have completed sealing off the building for there is a space between the door and the roof which needs blocking off. That couldn’t be done prior to the door being fitted as I couldn’t tell how much work was involved. So I may have some fun in the not too distant future trying to evict a couple of bats. I would rather catch them and release them somewhere safe but as the colder months are approaching they may go into hibernation in which case I would have to leave them alone.

Shirley Anne

I love dogs and cats but….

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English: Two of the most common home animals (...

Image via Wikipedia

I love dogs and I love cats too but these days I would have neither in my home. I have always had a preference for dogs and as much as I like cats I find them very destructive creatures so now I prefer cats to belong to other people. Whenever we have had cats at home we have suffered wallpaper being systematically stripped off the walls, carpets gradually scratched so much that holes began to appear and furniture scratched so much as to be unrepairable. It is natural for cats to behave in this way so it takes someone who isn’t bothered about these things to have them in their homes. Some dogs can be destructive too but that is usually through neglect or bad training, if they have ever received training. The other problem with having dogs and cats too for that matter is the hairs they leave all over the place. Again, animals have no control over these things. I am often in other people’s homes where they have animals roaming about freely and I see the mess they leave behind them. Whether their owners are simply too lazy to clean up after them or have reached that point whereby they don’t much care any more I often wonder. On Wednesday I went to just such a house. The lady had four cats and four dogs. Now you might think that is rather too many but I have been in homes where they have had more animals than these. The place stank of animal aromas, there were hairs all over the place and the house was grubby and dirty in places, especially at floor level. The furniture was covered with blankets thick with hairs and I got the feeling that she was not a person who was financially well-off. I wondered then why she was lavishing so much on her animals and neglecting her own needs to some extent. I wasn’t judging her but I find it difficult to accept that people do these things. Perhaps one cat and one dog would be wiser, in fact I believe it should be against the law to keep more than the minimum at home, for the sake of the welfare of the animals more than anything else. She told me that she was a veterinary surgeon but that she worked in a local animal sanctuary and didn’t have a practice of her own. Admirable work to be sure and she is obviously dedicated to the welfare of animals but to the detriment of her personal requirements when it comes to having too many of them at home. I know veterinary surgeons who live in large homes, drive up-market vehicles and have their own domestic pets, albeit just one or two. Their homes are not affected by their pets. Some people keeps pets for company, maybe they live alone or they need something in order to relieve the boredom so having a pet would satisfy both those needs. Pets certainly require attention and the right animal will show its appreciation of love and acts of kindness. I am not saying that having animals at home is wrong, far from it but even though I love animals I don’t really want them as pets.

Shirley Anne